摘錄自「Tradewinds」08 November 2013.
JD Lan-controlled Shih Wei Navigation is to add four more bulker orders at two Japanese yards, Higaki Shipbuilding and Onomichi Dockyard — but it is holding off ship sales until next year as it awaits a better market
Shih Wei Navigation president Tony Cheng (Cheng Cheng-Lung) says the company plans to grow fleet capacity, not by adding ships but by increasing vessel size in the course of its ongoing renewal process.
Four planned Japanese newbuildings come in both the larger-than-handysize bracket, where Shih Wei is a period-oriented tonnage provider, and in the smaller sector, where the company is actively operating its own handysizes, multipurpose (MPP) ships and log carriers, as well as 11 ships technically managed for private Taiwanese clients.
Cheng tells TradeWinds that the further orders under discussion involve two tweendeckers in the range of 17,000 dwt to 18,000 dwt from Higaki Shipbuilding and two 60,000-dwt supramax bulkers from Onomichi Dockyard.
“When you build your ship in Japan, you can sleep well,” said Cheng, a naval architect by trade, with long experience in negotiating with Japanese shipbuilders. “Nowadays, crew members’ technical skills are not as high, so you have to have high-performance equipment.”
He characterises the price for the 60,000-dwt ships as still under negotiation — but below the market for Japanese ships in that segment.
The four will swell an already extensive newbuild programme that Shih Wei is constructing for its own account and third-party clients.
“We have firm contracts for 12 ships that will be managed by us,” said Cheng.
These include four 60,000-dwt supramaxes and eight handysizes from 32,000 dwt to 37,000 dwt. This year’s last newbuilding delivery will be the managed 37,000-dwt Corewise OL (built 2013), which is pending at Onomichi’s subsidiary yard, Saiki Heavy Industries.
Time charters are under discussion for the 60,000-dwt ships, says Cheng.
Taipei-stocklisted Shih Wei, headed by chairman and chief executive officer Lan Jun-De (JD Lan), has a current fleet of one kamsarmax, three panamaxes and four supramaxes on time charter to companies such as Oetker and K Line, in addition to a self-operated fleet of 25 handysize vessels and 30 smaller ships of between 6,000 dwt and 17,000 dwt.
In ships bigger than handysize, where Shih Wei has no appetite for becoming an operator, the strategy is to keep vessels on charters lasting from one to three years.
“Our chairman never considers charters of longer than three years,” said Cheng. “But many of the ships have been under continuously renewed charters of two plus two years for 10 years or more.”
Shih Wei, like several other Taiwanese owners, has its historical roots in the shortsea logger and general-cargo trades, dating from the time when Taiwan’s industrial role in the Far East and Southeast Asia made these a natural niche for the island’s shipowners. In recent years, although it continues to work intensively as both technical manager and commercial operator in those smaller tonnage brackets, Shih Wei has also grown into the supramax, panamax and kamsarmax segments — but it has no desire to operate such vessels.
In this respect, Shih Wei resembles a somewhat larger compatriot a few blocks away, Wisdom Marine, which is controlled by Lan’s brother and former business partner, James Lan.
JD Lan recruited Cheng three years ago to the president’s position. Cheng had worked for many years as a designer with Taiwan’s state-sponsored United Ship Design & Development Centre and then as a consultant to Taiwan’s major shipowners, negotiating contract specifications on their behalf with Japanese yards.
But a visit to Shih Wei’s Taipei headquarters makes it clear that Lan is not chairing Shih Wei from a distance.
“Our company is very unique in its mixture of activities, our way of doing business and our employees,” said Cheng.
“We have a good organisation because our chairman is always in the office — not like the normal chairman.”
He characterises his boss as a “genius” who knows all sides of shipping and oversees the action with the facts at his fingertips.
“Our chairman’s memory is 100% correct. He can remember every date and every price — I have to use this paper,” said Cheng. Pointing to a visitor’s seat facing his own desk, he said: “He is always in this seat. He is always showing me the correct direction to make decisions.”
Lan also sits close to the shipbuilders he deals with, not least on matters of design. For example, instead of the 64,000-dwt ultramax design that has become very popular, Shih Wei favours a 60,000-dwt eco design that Lan prodded Japanese shipbuilder Onomichi to develop.
“We told them, ‘if you can provide this design, we will order the first four ships’,” said Cheng.
The design optimises features of the 58,000-dwt supramax that Shih Wei was already operating. Cheng calls it “very economical for our operations”.
Also active in management is the chairman’s daughter, Irene Lan, who heads chartering and shortsea operations as vice-president for business. A total of 64 of Shih Wei’s 98 shoreside employees are women.
The company maintains a young fleet, with an average age of about six years.
Renewal is constantly underway. Although sales are on hold in the current low market, there is no intention to increase the fleet in numbers, especially not in the large tonnage classes.
“If we expand the fleet further, it will be in relation to the current proportions [for the various segments],” said Cheng. “We are not so interested in panamax and kamsarmax at this time. Next year, who knows?”
Cheng emphasises the reputation his boss enjoys with the Japanese builders and his ability to negotiate an order when slots are tight.
“Now our fleet is almost all acquired at a very reasonable ship price,” he said. “Our chairman is always looking at good timing for orders.”